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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Go to the forest! Swedish phrases to use when you’re angry

There's nothing more infuriating than not having the right words to express your anger. Worry no longer; these are the phrases to learn and save for those occasions when you need to get angry in Swedish.

Go to the forest! Swedish phrases to use when you're angry
Use these phrases with caution. Photo: Philipp Pilz/Unsplash

People in Sweden tend to show anger less often, or at least less openly, than is common in other countries. But sometimes you just can't avoid confrontation, and when it happens you'll need the right vocabulary.

We've kept this guide relatively clean without the most explicit swear words, but you should still wield these with caution.

Lägg av – lay off/cut it out

If you want someone to stop doing or saying something, and it's getting on your last nerve, this is the phrase to use. Put the emphasis on the av.

It doesn't have to be angry; said with a smile it could be a response to friendly teasing or imply you don't believe what someone's saying, translated in English as 'ah, come on!'

But you can also use it to let someone know you're really losing patience. Follow up with Sluta! (Stop it!) if needed. 

If you're in a position of authority, for example a parent or teacher talking to children, you might start with a stern det räcker nu ('that's enough now') instead. This emphasises that you're the one who decides, whereas lägg av and sluta are often used between equals.

Är du seriös? – Are you for real? 

This can also be exchanged for skämtar du med mig? or skojar du? (are you joking) to express disbelief. They're not always used to show anger, and could be used if someone gives you news that sounds too good or surprising to be true, but combined with a warning tone they can be used to show you're getting fed up with what the other person's saying.

Det skiter jag i! – I don't care/I don't give a shit

This literally translates as “I shit on that” but it's not quite so vulgar in Swedish. Skit is used a lot in Swedish, often as a colloquial word for 'stuff' or 'thing'. Still, this phrase could definitely burn some bridges so only use it when you're certain you don't care.

For example: Vi kommer bli sena. Det skiter jag i! (We're going to be late. I don't give a shit!)


Photo: Vera Arsic/Pexels

Du har satt din sista potatis – you have planted your last potato

This very Swedish saying might not sound all that menacing, but Swedes love their potatoes. With no more left to plant, what's the point of anything any more? It's basically another way of saying 'I've had enough of you', 'That's the last straw'. 

Du retar gallfeber på mig – you make bile rise in my throat

If someone's really getting on your nerves, in the way that every little thing they do provokes an almost physical reaction from you, this is the phrase you want.

Han retar gallfeber på mig means something like 'he's driving me crazy' – you reserve it for things you really can't stand. A milder variant is han går mig på nerverna (he's getting on my nerves).

Fan också! – Damn as well!

Like skit, fan is a relatively tame Swedish swear word so you should moderate your usage in polite company, but it shouldn't raise any eyebrows among friends or even in some workplaces – as long as your expletives aren't aimed directly at a coworker.

Adding också (also) after a swear word is a common way of adding emphasis, perfect if you want to express anger but also show off your growing fluency at the same time.


Photo: Skitterphoto/Pexels

Lämna mig i fred! – leave me alone

Literally 'leave me in peace', and you can substitute it with låt mig vara (leave me be) if you're so furious you just need some time to cool off.

Sköt dig själv – mind your own business

Literally translating as 'look after/care for yourself' (and sometimes used in neutral contexts too), this can also be useful if dealing with someone nosy.

Håll käften – shut up

This literally means 'shut your mouth', but you would usually not use mun, the usual translation for 'mouth' in this phrase. Instead, you use käft (which also means 'jaw') or you can say håll truten, using another slang term for 'mouth'. 

Dra åt skogen – go to the forest

Swedes spend a lot of their free time having a perfectly pleasant time in nature, but this phrase isn't about that. It's a toned down form of dra åt helvete (go to hell).

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: skärgård

You don't have to spend long in Sweden to hear the word skärgård, especially if you live in cities like Stockholm or Gothenburg where the population relocate to the nearby skärgård every summer. Where does the word come from?

Swedish word of the day: skärgård

Skärgård is, like many Swedish words, a compound word made up of the word skär, describing a small rocky outcrop and gård, which has a number of meanings such as “courtyard”, “farm” or “garden”.

Although skärgård is often translated to English as “archipelago” – a group of islands – the word officially refers to an archipelago made up primarily of small islands, close to the coast of a larger island or landmass, such as the rocky archipelagos near Stockholm and Gothenburg.

Other kinds of archipelago – such as those which are not close to other landmasses, or those made up of larger islands – can be referred to as an arkipelag or ögrupp. However, many Swedes will just use skärgård for any kind of archipelago.

Although the word skärgård doesn’t exist in English, a variant of skär has made its way into the language. The English term for this type of small rocky outcrop is “skerry”.

Skerry has an interesting etymology in English – it comes from the Old Norse term sker, which refers to a rock in the sea. This is related to the Swedish word skära, meaning “cut” – a skerry is a rock cut off from land.

Sker came into English via Scots, where it is spelled skerry or skerrie. Other languages also have this word, such as Norwegian skjær/skjer, Estonian skäär, Finnish kari and Russian шхеры (shkhery). It can also be found in Scottish Gaelic sgeir, Irish sceir and Welsh sgeri.

This also reflects the geographic area where skerries are found – there are skerries or skärgårdar along the northernmost part of the Swedish west coast near Bohuslän and Gothenburg, as well as on the east coast near Stockholm. The Norwegian coast also has a large number of skerries, and Skärgårdshavet or “the Archipelago Sea” lies off the southwestern coast of Finland.

In Russia, the Minina Skerries (Shkhery Minina) are one example of a skärgård, and in Scotland, Skerryvore and Dubh Artach in the Hebrides are also made up of skerries. Northern Ireland is home to The Skerries, off the Antrim coast, and Skerries is also the name of a coastal area of Dublin in the Republic of Ireland.

You may be wondering if the surname of the famous Swedish Skarsgård family of actors – Stellan, Gustaf, Bill, Valter and Alexander Skarsgård, among others – comes from the word skärgård. Although the spelling is similar, this name actually comes from the town of Skärlöv on the island of Öland, and means “Skar’s farm” (Skares gård, in Swedish).

Example sentences

Jag ser redan fram emot sommarsemestern – vi har hyrt en stuga ute i Stockholms skärgård.

I’m already looking forwards to summer – we’ve rented a cottage out in the Stockholm archipelago.

Sverige har många skärgårdar, fast Skärgårdshavet vid Finlands västkust är störst i världen med över 50 000 öar och skär.

Sweden has a lot of archipelagos, but the Archipelago Sea off Finland’s west coast is the biggest in the world has over 50,000 islands and skerries.

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.

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